Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Our son began to speak somewhere between his fourth and fifth birthday. So basically, since he is now getting on towards six years old, we have only been "listening" to him for about a year. As is the case with many late-talkers, once he began it was as if the proverbial floodgates had opened. In Jason's case, he has a quite large vocabulary (hey, just because he wasn't talking to us doesn't mean he wasn't listening! He knew plenty of words before he started actually saying any). At the same time, he is not really an expert at conversing. A back-and-forth conversation is, well, somewhat diabolical for him at this point.

Following are three separate little snippets of speech heard recently in the D household. While I intend to let you decide for yourself the moral of each story, I will say that perhaps the most notable thing is that, relatively speaking, Jason has learned a lot and his Dad has a lot to learn.
It was fairly late at night. Well past 9:00 anyway. For us, that's late. I was working on some things on the computer, and Jason came to indicate to me that he was planning to get a glass of water. Everyone else was abed, and these quiet times can be some of the best opportunities I have to "pair off" with Jason and communicate (I use the term communicate out of habit - we were communicating long before he was talking). For some time now, my wife and I had been wondering when Jason may become aware of his behavioral differences from his brother and his peers - how often he had heard the word "autism" and if he had begun to try to figure out what it meant. I took this opportunity to probe for some answers.
"Jason, come talk to me for a minute."
"Okay", he spoke under his breath - a common "tone" during quieter moments in the house.
"Jason, have you ever heard the word 'Autism'?"
"Do you sometimes feel like you are different from some of your friends? Do you know you are unique and special?"
Without looking at me, breathing deeply, concentrating, "Yes".
"How do you know you are different?"
He looks right at me, "You're big, I'm small."
Okay, message received.
When we took a vacation recently, Jason's "stimming" increased notably. His most common stims are hand-flapping and hand-clenching, though flapping noticeably increased while we were out of town. We weren't too concerned about it, we just noticed it and chalked it up to changes in routine. This, among other things, prompted us to produce a visual schedule, which seemed to make him feel much better about everything.
So last week, Jason came to me to ask for a DVD. We keep them on a high shelf, and Jason loves to be lifted up to perch on a lower shelf so he can peruse DVD titles while I hold him in place. This goes back about 18 months, and he loves to do it. Well, when he requested a DVD I was in the middle of something and asked him to wait a minute. He immediately took a step back and started vigorously flapping his hands. He was obviously stressed by having to wait. He stopped after a moment and asked me again. I again told him to wait, and he looked at a far-off point in space and, keeping his hands at waist level, flapped again. I finished what I was doing, noting that he must be particularly stressed tonight, for some reason, at having to wait. I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask him why - after all, maybe something else was bothering him and I might find out what it was. So...
"Jason, why are you flapping your hands? Is it because you have to wait? Are you OK?"
"I'm flying" came the response.
Duh! He was pretend-flying, which would have made it possible for him to get his own DVD and not have to wait for his lummox of a Dad! In other words, he was being five years old, not autistic!
Jason, like many autistic children and adults, has had significant sleep problems. Though we have helped him to solve some of the issues, one that continues is his habit of waking in the middle of the night. Fortunately for us, he is very passive during these times and he prefers to just crawl in our bed and lay between us. He doesn't chitchat or squirm (anymore), he just relaxes and in time falls back asleep. Well, two nights ago our middle boy - age 4 - had woken to bad dreams and we brought him in to lay between us so he could sleep soundly. Around 3:00 a.m., when Jason made his nightly trek into our bedroom to settle in, he found that his spot was occupied. There are a thousand possible reactions to this scenario, most of which I would never had witnessed - I just happened to be awake when he came in.
He paused for a moment, assessing the situation. I heard him sigh forcefully.
He stomped his foot and exclaimed: "Oh, Barnacles!"
I jumped up and led him back to his own bed, chuckling to myself all the way.


Bink said...

I enjoyed reading this. He sounds like such a neat kid. He also reminds me of my own child, who still surprises us with things she remembers hearing us say from years ago. Just as you said, just because she wasn't talking doesn't mean she wasn't listening!

andrea said...

Our "NT" kid was speech-delayed, saying very little for a couple of years. Then as you say, the floodgates! Now a highly verbal English major. We did some signing during that time to improve communication. I don't think anyone remembers very many signs any more, but I was impressed that a 2-year old child could sign a five-word sentence!

Suzanne said...

Oh Barnacles! hee hee I heard my delayed 9 year old say "doggonit!" the other day, and was so pleased he had picked that up from me.
I liked where you said you communicated while he was non-verbal. My 6 year old does not speak a word, but we share a lot anyway. Lately he has been vocalizing with more variety, and some of the sounds may have meaning. I try not to dwell on the hope that he will speak. but when he says mumumum, well, you know what I hear (mom)

Ms. Clark said...

:-) Nice stories. Nice family.

Another Autism Mom said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

I was expecting some type of angry response at the sight of the younger brother in his parents' bed, so "Oh Barnacles" put a big smile on my face. My almost-4-year-old son joins us in bed every night, so I can relate. We still don't have a sibling for him, but we're working on it, so it might be a possible future scenario.

Niksmom said...

Yep, he was listening! Love the "Oh barnacles!" LOL

I'm glad you made the point about communicating vs. talking. Some of our extended family members (among many others) don't understand that Nik *does* communicate --- quite clearly when one takes the time to "listen."

notmercury said...

Still reading along even if I don't get around to commenting. Thanks for the "Snippets"

Steve D said...

Thank you all for your very nice comments!

Kelli said...

Stumbled onto your blog from a link that someone posted to an autism newsgroup. Great great post. :) Will take a look at the rest of the blog.

Steve D said...

Thanks, Kelli. I'd be interested to know where you linked from so I can check out that forum.

teresa said...

I don't think myself as a blog reader, but your story touched me deeply! Many times I see my child as autistic, when in reality he's just a 4 year old. Thanks again for the clarity and the peace of it all....